Sixteen years after Gig Young's death, his daughter is waging a public battle for the actor's 1969 Oscar.
Jennifer Young, 30, the late actor's only child and sole surviving relative, claims that she is entitled to the statuette her father won for his supporting role in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" But Beverly Hills talent agent Martin Baum says that Gig Young made no mention of the Oscar in his will and that he is now the rightful owner of the award. Baum suggested that Jennifer Young, an aspiring country-Western singer and actress, has launched the Oscar crusade strictly for publicity.
"The Oscar is mine. She has no right to it. She was given whatever was due her in her father's will," said Baum, who keeps the statuette in his office at Creative Artists Agency. Baum cast Gig Young in the award-winning role during his three-year stint as president of ABC Pictures. He had been the actor's friend and agent for more than eight years.
In 1978 in New York, Gig Young shot his 31-year-old wife, Kim Schmidt, to death and then turned the gun on himself. Young, 64, had been plagued by alcoholism throughout his 35-year career.
Gig Young bequeathed Jennifer Young, his daughter from a previous marriage, only a meager inheritance and left most of his possessions to his sister, Genevieve Barr Merry, without mentioning the Oscar. Merry, according to Baum, acquired the statuette and turned it over to him 7 years ago. Merry has since died.
Technically, according to a spokesman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presents the awards, Gig Young's Oscar belongs to neither Baum nor Jennifer Young. The statuettes, although loaned to award winners, are ultimately the property of the academy, the spokesman said.
Young has hired attorney Melvin Belli and is threatening to sue if she doesn't get the Oscar. Belli's partner, Kevin McClain, said he will first petition the academy to grant Young the right to possess her father's Oscar before proceeding with any court action.
Jennifer Young said she has already written to Baum requesting the statuette, to no avail.
"I'm praying that you can find it in your heart to give back a piece of my father by handing over his Oscar to me," Young wrote Baum in August. "I know you have it proudly displayed in a glass case in your office. My dad's Academy Award was his greatest success, as well as my greatest inspiration."
Young declined to discuss the specifics of her father's will, but attributed her meager inheritance to her father's bitterness over his 1968 divorce from her mother, Beverly Hills "realtor to the stars" Elaine Young. He previously was married to Elizabeth Montgomery, who later starred in the "Bewitched" television series.
The suave actor was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in "Teacher's Pet" in 1958. But it was his portrayal of a smarmy dance marathon promoter opposite Jane Fonda in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" that won him the award for best supporting actor.